2150 Hempstead Turnpike, Elmont, NY 11003
Belmont Park is home to the now 150-year-old Thoroughbred horse race, the Belmont Stakes. The track and the race, which are named for August Belmont and his son August Belmont, have become famous as they are the home of Secretariat’s record-breaking win, Belmont Park has the largest dirt surface in America (giving it the nickname Big Sandy), and the Stakes are the oldest of the Triple Crown races.
Every racing season, from roughly the end of April to near the end of July, Belmont becomes more frequently visited by racing fans. This cyclical influx of (mostly white) visitors to (the mostly black town of) Elmont has become an expected but unwanted ritual. A ritual that is about to get a lot worse.
New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo, celebrated the approval of a new arena to be built in Elmont, New York with a tweet reading “The @NYIslanders are coming home to Long Island! With the state-of-the-art redevelopment of Belmont Park, we are adding a world-class entertainment destination to Long Island.”
In July of 2017, a proposal was put through to build a hockey arena in Belmont Park for the New York Islanders. The goal of this new arena is to “… strengthen Belmont as a premier destination for entertainment, sports, recreation, retail and hospitality on Long Island,” said Robert Williams, chairman of the state’s Franchise Oversight Board. Though a nice idea in theory, in practice, a new arena in the area may be devastating.
Elmont is a very small town, so small it isn’t even considered a town, but a Hamlet; and during horse racing season Belmont sees enough new people to Elmont. The 2017 Stakes alone brought almost 60,000 people to Belmont Park. The influx of outsiders makes it very difficult for people who actually live in Elmont. I live very close to one of Belmont’s main gates and parking lots which makes resident parking and getting around just that much more challenging. I can clearly recall multiple separate occasions where there has been no parking down my street because so many people swarm to the area. Horse racing season lasts from April to July, just a few months to have to readjust to everyone coming into town; but hockey season lasts from October to April, meaning there would be no period of time where Elmont wouldn’t be crowded by people who don’t live here.
Some say that a new arena would do the area good as to bring in more revenue to the town as well as new jobs but in reality, those claims aren’t as good as they seem to be. More people coming to Elmont means more carbon emissions in our area which are highly damaging to the earth. With people contributing to local businesses as well, they’ll need to order more and more goods to sell thus bringing more large delivery trucks and again more carbon emissions. The claim that more jobs will be available is also true but not as good as it seems. After spending so much money to build the arena, it’ll take years and years to pay off. The arena won’t have the funds to pay anything more than minimum wage because any extra money they have will go to paying off what they owe.
With the building of the new arena comes the traffic, noise, and crime with it. Thus, leading to more police in the area. Elmont is a majority-minority neighborhood and with police tensions as they are now it makes it very scary to have so many police in the town as there would be if the arena was built. The prospective spot for the arena is only a 30-minute maximum walk from the high school and a 20-minute maximum walk from the elementary school. This means that a lot of children live in the area, children who need sleep at the time of scheduled events. You may think that it wouldn’t make a difference, but the voices of 20,000 people screaming at a concert or hockey game carries.
Cuomo and Williams both support the arena because they say it’ll bring an “entertainment destination” to Long Island, but there already is one, Nassau Coliseum. A venue that was just redone in the past 2 years that the Islanders will be playing at very soon. The Coliseum is also only 14 miles away, less than 20 minutes driving, from where the Belmont Arena would be built. Supporters of the Belmont Park complain about going to Brooklyn from Long Island but giving the Islanders a permanent home at Nassau Coliseum will provide a shorter distance from even Belmont to the rest of Long Island.
Not to mention that this hockey arena isn’t really being built for the people of Elmont. 66% of Elmont residents are Black or Latino where only 5% of people who watch and follow the NHL (National Hockey League) are Black or Latino. 92% of NHL fans are white and majority white towns are closer to Nassau Coliseum. Towns like Garden City, Mineola, and East Meadow are all majority white. The probability of residents of these towns being hockey fans there is much greater than in majority-minority towns like Elmont, North Valley Stream or South Floral Park. Residents from towns that aren’t Elmont came to Elmont community meeting to advocate for the hockey arena where residents of Elmont opposed the idea. The venue is being built for people who don’t live in the area and people who live in the area are being ignored. The community meeting was held with a plan fully formed with no input as to what should go into it by the people. The voices of the people who belong to the town are being silenced and neglected
Overall, people in Elmont don’t really want a new venue built. It’ll add a lot of noise to the area and dirt in the air. It’ll provide more traffic starting from day 1 of building with the big trucks driving around to bring supplies to the park and to build the park too. With a different venue just 20 minutes away it seems unnecessary to take years to build an entirely new venue in a town that will have a hard time handling it.
Baumbach, Jim, and Robert Brodsky. “Sources: Isles’ Bid Picked for Belmont Park.” Newsday, Newsday, 20 Dec. 2017, www.newsday.com/sports/hockey/islanders/islanders-new-arena-belmont-park-1.15519161.
Baumbach, Jim. “Location of Proposed Arena at Belmont Revealed.” Newsday, Newsday, 22 Oct. 2017, www.newsday.com/sports/hockey/islanders/islanders-ledecky-belmont-lirr-1.14572624.
Baumbach, Jim. “State: Public Meetings Set for Islanders Arena.” Newsday, Newsday, 28 Feb. 2018, www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/belmont-park-islanders-arena-meetings-1.16975210.
Person. “Belmont Park Redevelopment Renderings.” Newsday, Newsday, 15 Jan. 2018, www.newsday.com/sports/hockey/islanders/belmont-park-redevelopment-renderings-1.15533837.
Brodsky, Robert, and Jim Baumbach. “Residents, Isles Fans, Pack Belmont Hearing.” Newsday, Newsday, 11 July 2017, www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/nassau-residents-islander-fans-pack-belmont-park-hearing-1.13793172.
Brodsky, Robert. “State Seeks Proposals to Develop Belmont Park.” Newsday, Newsday, 31 July 2017, www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/state-seeks-belmont-park-development-proposals-1.13881231.
Cuomo, Andrew. “The @NYIslanders Are Coming Home to Long Island! With the State-of-the-Art Redevelopment of Belmont Park, We Are Adding a World-Class Entertainment Destination to Long Island. Pic.twitter.com/WSIj3eXPHa.” Twitter, Twitter, 20 Dec. 2017, twitter.com/nygovcuomo/status/943537994375495680.
Ferrette, Candice. “24-Story Hotel among Belmont Park Concerns.” Newsday, Newsday, 23 Mar. 2018, www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/islanders-belmont-park-1.17617086.
Thompson, Derek. “Which Sports Have the Whitest/Richest/Oldest Fans?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 10 Feb. 2014, www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/02/which-sports-have-the-whitest-richest-oldest-fans/283626/.
Winzelberg, David. “Arena Opponents to Voice Dissent at Belmont Hearing.” Long Island Business News, 22 Mar. 2018, libn.com/2018/03/22/arena-plan-opponents-to-voice-dissent-at-belmont-hearing/.